April 12, 2017 / 6:55 PM / 3 months ago

Airbus CEO considers new term, says not retiring soon

3 Min Read

FILE PHOTO: Airbus Group Chief Executive Tom Enders speaks during a news conference on the aerospace group's annual results, in London, Britain February 24, 2016.Hannah McKay

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Airbus (AIR.PA) Chief Executive Tom Enders is in the early stages of considering whether to seek another term as head of Europe's largest aerospace company when his mandate expires in 2019, and says he is not currently thinking about retirement.

The German-born executive told Reuters in an interview he was far from bored after five years in the job, during which the company has gone through sweeping governance changes as well as a reorganization whose final step was approved on Wednesday.

"It is up to shareholders and the board to decide. I am 58 now and I am not close to retirement. (Former CEO) Louis (Gallois) retired from the company aged 68, which is not my benchmark, but in 2019 I will only be 60," he said.

Enders was speaking after shareholders approved a change in the name of the company's Dutch-registered top entity to Airbus SE from Airbus Group SE, completing an overhaul which saw the group merge with its main jetmaking division earlier this year.

The recent shake-up saw Frenchman Fabrice Bregier, who runs the planemaking business, add the new role of chief operating officer of the unified company, with an official No. 2 role.

Uncertainty over Enders' plans could test what is often painted as a guarded relationship between him and Bregier, a tandem seen as vital to keeping the Franco-German-led aerospace company on track as it breaks away from years of in-fighting.

Although Bregier is widely viewed as the main candidate to replace Enders, his status as heir apparent has not officially been confirmed and a delayed handover could allow others to develop the profile needed to be considered, analysts say.

Bregier has said he is focused on running the airplane business, which is the main rival to U.S. planemaker Boeing (BA.N), and his new company-wide operational duties.

Enders is expected to let the board know around March next year whether he would like to stay in the 3 million euros ($3.2 mln) a year post, giving the company a year to polish its succession plans.

Asked whether he would seek a new mandate from 2019, Enders said, "It depends on many things. If it were boring then that would be a different story, but this company has plenty of challenges - sometimes more than I would like - and it is a fascinating one and I am still relatively young, but we will see. There is no need to take any decision on that now."

($1 = 0.9439 euros)

Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Susan Fenton

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